The Hijacking of Bonhoeffer

I have noticed lately that #DietrichBonhoeffer has been hijacked by a variety of evangelical Christians and their organisations to push their own agenda or convictions. Bonhoeffer, who indeed was heroic in his resistance against the Nazis, makes an easy Christian pin up boy. However, sadly his legacy is used as a weapon in the hands of unscrupulous and self-righteous Christians to justify their particular view of the world.
Those who usually ask ‘What would Jesus do” now have added ‘What would Dietrich Bonhoeffer do”. Whatever their answer, they believe that their agenda automatically is to be considered right and irrefutable because they use Bonhoeffer as justification.
Many of the Evangelicals embracing Bonhoeffer as their latest hero seem to know little about the historic background and often get ‘evangelisch’ (German for Protestant) mixed up with evangelical. A recent article by an Anglican, #MichaelJensen mentions #EricMetaxes‘ book on Bonhoeffer, which has received praise from evangelical churches but not so from Bonhoeffer scholars due to its lack of historic fact and personal slant of the author to make Bonhoeffer into what suits him.
By sanctimoniously asking “What would Bonhoeffer do” evangelical Christians have added a further loathsome way of scoring points for their belief by hi-jacking a historical figure.

http://protestantperspective.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/dietrich-bonhoeffer-2-lessons-in-misuse.html

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/dietrich-bonhoefferethics-1949-4

Joseph McGarry
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Apocatastasis: A Challenge to Evangelical Reception
American Academy of Religion, Bonhoeffer Section
20 November 2011

…”Which brings us back to our original quotation from Eric Metaxas’s Christianity Today interview. Conservative America went into conniptions at the hint of universalism. What would it do with a theology which allows and never refutes it? Would Glenn Beck still call Bonhoeffer a hero?36 How might this impact conservative evangelical America’s Bonhoeffer fascination? Well, if Bell’s treatment is symptomatic, at best they would treat Bonhoeffer with the same cool regard reserved for Karl Barth. At worst, they would be out for blood.”

http://toby-faix.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/die-peinliche-posse-um-bonhoeffer.html

Samstag, Februar 04, 2012

„Die peinliche Posse um Bonhoeffer“

Heute wäre der 105. Geburtstag von Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Ich lese zurzeit die neue Biographie Bonhoeffer: „Pastor, Agent, Märtyrer und Prophet“ von Metaxas, welches bisher gut zu lesen ist, weil a) Metaxas nach guter amerikanischer Tradition journalistisch gut schreibt und b) Prof. Mayer es geschichtlich gut in den deutschen Rahmen gesetzt hat (das Buch ist toll aufgemacht). Auffallend ist nach den ersten hundert Seiten, dass es relativ „untheologisch“ ist. Bonhoeffers Auseinandersetzung mit der liberalen Theologie oder seine Sympathie für Bultmann fehlen komplett (vielleicht kommt das noch). Warum dies wahrscheinlich kein Zufall ist, wurde schon bei seinem ersten Besuch zur Buchpremiere im September in Berlin klar, als er vollmundig behauptete, dass Bonhoeffer ein Evangelikaler sei. Letzte Woche beim Willow Creek Kongress in Stuttgart trat Metaxas wieder auf und erzählte stolz, dass er Bonhoeffer den „Liberalen“ entrissen habe und ihn wieder zum „Evangelikalen“ gemacht hat. Es ist Schade, dass der Mensch Bonhoeffer für solche „Spielchen“ missbraucht wird. Gerade Bonhoeffer, der sich nie einordnen ließ, weder in die Kategorien damals, noch in die heute, hat es verdient mit mehr Respekt behandelt zu werden. Die Posse mit Metaxas ist ein gutes Beispiel wie Geschichte ins eigene Weltbild interpretiert wird. Wahrscheinlich passiert das ständig, aber selten war es so unangenehm wie in den Interviews von Metaxas.

Natürlich werden jetzt einige sagen, na und? Hauptsache Bonhoeffer wird wieder gelesen. Ja, dem stimme ich sogar zu, und man sollte damit anfangen Bonhoeffer wieder im Original zu lesen…
Metaxas’s attempt to “reclaim” Bonhoeffer for conservatives is not necessarily a new move, as Georg Huntemann attempted twenty years ago through his work The Other Bonhoeffer
However, the biography’  overwhelming popularity places it in a diffe
rent category. Metaxas’s desire to portray Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a theological and social conservative, and then touse that portrayal to his own socio-political ends, was something acutely recognized in CliffordGreen ’s review of the biography for The Christian Century.
 “My issue is not to take umbridge with how Dietrich Bonhoeffer was used to promote a specific agenda and its impact upon popularreception, though that type of project would be helpful. Rather, it is with the simple fact that I thinkMr. Metaxas is wrong;Dietrich Bonhoeffer wasn’t more like a conservative evangelic al Christianthan anything else. I believe that fact alone raises substantial issues precisely because of its centrality for Metaxas’s reinterpretative project. To make my point, I will use Bonhoeffer’s affection for apocatastasis, the universal salvation of all, as a litmus test that places Bonhoeffer in sharp relief against conservative evangelical America.”
“My issue is not to take umbridge with how Dietrich Bonhoeffer was used to promote a specific agenda and its impact upon popularreception, though that type of project would be helpful. Rather, it is with the simple fact that I thinkMr. Metaxas is wrong;Dietrich Bonhoeffer wasn’t more like a conservative evangelic al Christianthan anything else. I believe that fact alone raises substantial issues precisely because of its centrality for Metaxas’s reinterpretative project. To make my point, I will use Bonhoeffer’s affection for apocatastasis, the universal salvation of all, as a litmus test that places Bonhoeffer in sharp relief against conservative evangelical America.”)

11/2/2014
Not only American Conservative Evangelicals, the very vociferous and self-righteous Australian Evangelical also has long laid claim to #Bonhoeffer and made him the poster boy for their particular interpretation of the bible. #Evangelicals have the need to appropriate those Christians, who were or are seen as martyrs, in order to give credence to their way of thinking. Doing so is a cheap and very dangerous method which they use to convert, preach and if need be demonise, without any hesitation or feeling of shame.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer cannot defend himself and who knows what he would or would not do or say to atrocities committed today or about Evangelical beliefs. It takes a special kind of narcissistic and selfish fanaticism to not only ask ‘What would Bonhoeffer do’ but then to also to supply the answer.
It should be enough to see Bonhoeffer for what he was, courageous and strong minded, a man who believed in justice, tolerance and who saw himself no different to all those who fought the Nazi Regime like he did, irrespective of their beliefs. There is a common belief in humanity, empathy and altruism, which is shared by all humans, admittedly some more so than others, but when this belief leads an individual to courageous and self-less acts, then anyone who believes in the same values certainly has to honour and admire them for what they did.
When I grew up in Germany Bonhoeffer was (and still is) admired, by believers and non-believers, for his stance and actions. Never did I encounter the kind of reprehensible and self-righteous and self-serving interpretation as is prevalent among Evangelical Christians in Australia. It is sad and distressing that in America, as well as in Australia, Christian fanaticism is on the rise and will stop at nothing, not even using and misusing Dietrich #Bonhoeffer’s legacy, in order to imbue the conservative evangelical cause with anti-universalist sentiment as well as their intolerant and small minded religiosity. (BK)

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